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Monday, January 01, 2024

Vale John Pilger:Born October 9, 1939, Bondi, New South Wales, Australia-Died December 30, 2023, London, England, Brilliant Journalist & Filmaker:John Tognolini


John Pilger 

'Dear John

How nice to hear from you and to know that you've re-launched your blog; we need you!…..all my best to you

John Pilger.’

 That was in April last year before I had a knee replacement. My rehab took my full attention for the best part of six months. I was off work from teaching for six weeks. I was going to email him today with the late relaunch of my blog TOGS'S PLACE.COM  However, it's was with tremendous sorrow that I learned of John Pilger's death today. My partner told me the sad news.

His family announced on his death on X (Twitter)

‘It is with great sadness the family of John Pilger announce he died yesterday 30 December 2023 in London aged 84. His journalism and documentaries were celebrated around the world, but to his family he was simply the most amazing and loved Dad, Grandad and partner. Rest In Peace.’

John Pilger was a role model for me. I transcribed his answer to my  on question on history being memory, in Katoomba, in 2008. The last time I saw and spoke to him was Parramatta launch of his sixtieth film The Coming War With China at Riverside Theatre. I gave him a copy of my 2015 book A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir, Part One: Other People’s Wars.which included my question. and his answer to it.

‘’The importance of history to me was reinforced by the answer given from veteran journalist and film maker, John Pilger, to a question I asked him, on Friday March 7 2008. At a public meeting in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney, at Australian acting legend and icon, Jack Thompson’s when he then owned the Gearins Hotel.

I asked him, “John you mentioned with Rudd, going through our Blair period, we are now. I remember in your book New Rulers of The World, how Blair modelled himself on Keating. I also remember at the Sydney Writers Festival, when Blair was elected a number of years ago now, you saying we were going through our Hawke/Keating period in Britain. It seems to recycle. I’m saying this as a history teacher and I’ve used your work on East Timor and many other things including Vietnam. A lot of other history teachers have as well.

How important is that struggle of memory? That you’ve really put forward.

Just seeing your film The War on Democracy, it took me back as someone who did solidarity with people of Chile, the people of El Salvador and of Nicaragua, and seeing people from Chile, who were in tears, who lived through it.

The whole thing to me, I’m looking at now, is let’s get rid of that history. It’s like journalism. The point you’ve made is that you can’t work as a journalist in Australia because Murdoch controls so much of the media here. He controls twenty five per cent of the world’s media. You talk about grass roots. How important do you see that struggle of history and memory? Because to me that’s what history is, memory.

 John’s answer was, “ Absolutely, for those people at the back, the gentleman who asked is a history teacher and boiling it down, he asked how important is memory in our understanding of events and acting on them.

 Well it’s absolutely critical. Today it is more important than ever because as Time magazine once said, “We live in a time of eternal present.” Well they’d like to think we live in a time of eternal present. We don’t off course and all of us have memories, individual, collective but it is our political, even cultural memory, intellectual memory if you like, that is assaulted constantly.

We are asked to support wars abroad while the memory of the previous war that Australia has been involved in, time after time of any nation of its age in its modern era. We are asked to support these wars without understanding how the previous wars were begun. The idea of understanding Vietnam. How we got into Vietnam. How we were conned into Vietnam. How when we got into Vietnam it was a rather ignominious sacrifice of our own troops as well as of course the Vietnamese, because unknown to the Australian public, we  were doing some very, very dirty work for the Americans in Black Teams working for the CIA and so on and so forth. I mentioned earlier Australians being left by Rudd in the Green Zone, the Australian SAS. The same thing.

The Australian SAS was actually in Iraq. That’s been pretty well established if you read some of Tony Kevans’s work on this before the March invasion in 2003. Now that’s the extinguishing of memory. Because, if we understood, what a monstrous time Vietnam was. If we decode it, we strip away its clichés. If we take away the language of power, then we restore our own memory.

 So it’s the old Orwellian thing. If we don’t understand the past, we will never understand the present and the future paraphrasing basically it was common sense. So much of the media is geared to preventing us understanding the past and drawing lessons from it.

On the positive side, I have to say that I’ve never known a time when public awareness about something going on. About insecurity, about wrongs happening in the world. I don’t think it has ever been as high as it has been today. So we mustn’t and I’m speaking for myself become obsessed with the media being this impenetrable obstacle to us finding out. It isn’t.

We’ve got a meeting like this tonight in Katoomba. There are plenty of books in the bookshop. The internet is full of some interesting journalism. We have people like yourself teaching and others but its drawing all this together. It’s never acting alone. It’s always acting together and sharing this information and that’s how you reclaim memory in my experience. It’s drawing in people with the experience of the past and describing the lessons we might draw then for the present and the future. All this is in a way all about intellectual and political direct action and that is where politics in my view should be. It is about direct action. That direct action can happen against ALP just as it happens against the Coalition. It can be direct action against the media. Why should the media not be a target for direct action? ....’’

John liked my book and wrote this to help promote my work. 'John Tognolini has been a rare voice and witness for justice in Australia, chronicling the struggles of Indigenous Australians and veterans and the deceptions of power from behind the facades of a society that prefers not to know. I salute him.' I have his words on the masthead of my blog.

A couple of months after we met, I endure a stroke that nearly killed me. A friend of mine, Willem Hendriksen spoke to John at the Parramatta Women’s Factory Bicentenary, and how he wished me a speedy recovery.

I emailed John ….Hi John, I have pretty much recovered from the stroke less than two weeks ago, but still a bit of a way to go. [This was being off work for nearly six months doing three and half hours of speech therapy a day.] I had been fortunate that my partner Trish was there with me when it happened. I’m actually participating in the 100th Annual Conference of NSW Teachers Federation in Sydney right now. Yesterday I was proud that I spoke in support of our union adopting the Uluru declaration, the Statement From the Heart.

Some people have said I had a minor stroke. There are two types of strokes, ones that kill you and ones you survive. How one survives ranges from being a lucky bastard like me, getting the medication within the four and half hour gap to get the clot buster, and surviving the 24 hour watch by the nurses. To the poor bastards in the Stroke Ward I was with in Nepean [Hospital] at Penrith who are prisoners in their own bodies. I only got out of hospital last Thursday. I’m grateful to the paramedics and medical staff at Katoomba  and Nepean Hospitals.

I enjoyed your piece on the Women’s Factory  and shared it on the Unions Australia Facebook group.

My English Great grandfather, Thomas Batt arrived as a boat person in chains, as a convict in 1831 to Hobart. When he landed in Hobart, there was a bounty on Aboriginal heads, more was paid out for an adult’s head than a child’s head. The Ethnic Cleansing of the Black Line had just been carried out that involved British soldiers and settlers going from the South of the island to the North killing any Aboriginals on sight.

John replied to me, ‘’‘… I was very concerned to hear about your stroke, and I am equally happy you fit into "type two"!  What I should say is no doubt what all your friends will be saying to you with the drumbeat of repetition -- take it easy for a while, quite a while, please.

Very interesting about Thomas Batt - the people of that era were amazing, weren't they? My own grandfather was virtually illiterate; I didn't know until I found my mother reading the paper to him. And yet he achieved so much.

Take care, John, and all the best.’’

John Pilger has left a rich legacy of books and films at his John


 In his final published essay, John Pilger wrote,

THERE IS A WAR COMING, SHROUDED IN PROPAGANDA  in Declassified Australia 'recalls the ‘electric’ opposition of writers and journalists to the coming war in the 1930s, and investigates why today there is ‘a silence filled by a consensus of propaganda’ as the two greatest powers draw closer toconflict. 

John Pilger.& David McBride

There is an excellent interview the Good Major, Afghanistan War Crimes Whistle Blower between David McBride and John Pilger. On David McBride and Julian Assange John Pilger said,'“Spartacus was the rebellious leader of Rome’s slaves in 71-73 BC. There is a thrilling moment in the Kirk Douglas movie Spartacus when the Romans call on Spartacus’s men to identify their leader and so be pardoned. Instead hundreds of his comrades stand and raise their fists in solidarity and shout, ‘I am Spartacus!’ The rebellion is under way. Julian and David are Spartacus. The Palestinians are Spartacus. People who fill the streets with flags and principle and solidarity are Spartacus. We are all Spartacus if we want to be”.

There is that quote from John that I practice my journalism by, Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what Orwell called the official truth. They simply cipher and transmit lies. It really grieves me that so many of my fellow journalists can be so manipulated that they become really what the French describe as functionaires, functionaries, not journalists.

I will be updating A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir, Part One: Other People’s Wars to include AUKUS and Israel's Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Rest in peace John Pilger, you were a role model for many of us who believe and practice journalism.

John Tognolini, Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.